Cats focus on Downey for chance to win


Senior guard Devan Downey screams in triumph after becoming the first team to defeat UK this season,68-62, at Colonial Life Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

Devan Downey will be the smallest player on the court Thursday night, but he will garner the largest attention from UK (26-1, 11-1 Southeastern Conference).

The elusive 5-foot-9 South Carolina guard gave the Cats fits in their first meeting of the season on Jan. 26, scoring 30 points and getting to the foul line with ease in route to taking 11 foul shots.

“Downey’s going to take 30 shots, that’s what he’s going to do,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “Guard him. What was happening to us is, because he was driving we were ball-watching … that’s the issue of the game.”

While Downey missed 20 shots in their first meeting, the Cats were caught ball-watching on numerous occasions, Calipari said. When the final horn sounded and the fans stormed the court, the Cats had their first loss of the season and it was just the fourth time all season they had been outrebounded.

Since that eventful evening in late January, the two teams have gone in opposite directions. The Cats are 7-0 and have been outrebounded only once, and have outrebounded their seven opponents by an average of 10.1 boards per game. Conversely, South Carolina (14-12, 5-7 SEC) is 2-4 since the upset victory, and has been outrebounded by each of their six opponents.

UK freshman forward Daniel Orton said the Cats actually did a good job on Downey the first game. Orton pointed to Downey’s 20 missed shots and that three or four of his baskets came at the end. The problem, Orton said, was the number of fouls called against UK when Downey had the ball.

“One time he drove into me and I think I was standing straight up and I kind of jumped backwards and he jumped into me and they called a foul on me,” Orton said. “So there really wasn’t much I could do about it as far as blocking the shot and everything, so hopefully down here we’ll have the refs help us out a little bit.”

The Cats said at the beginning of the year one of their goals was to go undefeated in addition to winning a national championship. Because South Carolina dashed those dreams, many have assumed this game means more for UK than others. Calipari said he wants to see if they have gotten better since the last time they played them, but Orton said the loss will be in the back of their minds.

“It’s a little more special than our normal games,” Orton said. “There’s going to be an attitude going I guess you could say, and we’re just going to be really into it.”